Tessa Blanchard is one of the wrestling world's top stars and though she's only been active in the industry for five years, she's had a lifetime of experiences. In a recent interview on Talk is Jericho, Blanchard discussed her career, telling Jericho about her start in wrestling, her WWE tryout and subsequent workings with WWE in a small capacity.
She began by detailing how backstage politics -- ranging from nepotism (her father is one of the Original Four Horseman) to dating rumors -- initially made wrestling locker rooms an alienating place for her.
"I think when I started in wrestling, I hadn't realized how difficult locker rooms were going to be," Blanchard said. "I thought they were going to be more inviting than they were. On numerous different occasions I have had people tell me that I am only booked because of my dad, because of who I was dating, or any other exceptions other than my hard work, so in my mind I wanted to put in the extra hours in the ring.
"That way, I put in the time and I was able to back it up. So that way, when someone would say something like that, next time there would be no validity to it. I can say, 'No, f**k you, I work hard.'"
Locker rooms proved not to be a problem for Blanchard in her career as she's one of the industry's best talents-- she's a former Impact Knockouts champion, current Women of Wrestling champion and has even been had a taste of the big leagues with WWE.
"WWE contacted me to do one of those Raw and SmackDown extra spots, which I thought was really cool," she said. "I went to Monday's Raw, I got there and William Regal talked to us telling us that we are going to do promos and matches tomorrow, anyone who wants to have one can, which I thought was great.
"It was me and my friend Chasity Taylor and a few other girls, there were only 4 girls there. Her and I were really green. We talked to them and asked that maybe we could pair up and have a pretty decent match and it'll be great, but they were like, 'Well, actually we want to work with each other and you guys can work with each other because we have worked with each other before,' So we were like, okay. Chasity and I stayed up all night, pushing our mattresses together trying to come up with some match; I didn't even have gear or anything. I never lifted a weight in my life or nothing. This was going to be my first match. What is funny about this-- and I haven't shared this story with many people because it's how everything comes full circle for me. So, my dad and my step-dad [Magnum TA] had their 'I Quit Match' at Starrcade '85 at the Greensboro Coliseum in the same arena that I had my first match in. In the moment I hadn't even realized that until after the fact and I thought, wow, the world has a weird way of playing out."
"I didn't tell them that it was my first match. I didn't tell them that I was borrowing another woman's gear, I didn't tell them anything. When they called me back to do extra spots, Scott Armstrong and Joey Mercury were in catering and they were like, 'Tessa, come talk to us for a second.' I was like, Hey guys, just so you know that was my first match. They were like, 'Why didn't you tell us that? That explains so much, thank you for telling us.'
"Scott Armstrong got me my tryout at the WWE Performance Center. I went there and got my tryout and it was one of the most physically trying things in my life. I literally think they blow you up where you can only work on instinct and see how far you can go from there. It was insane, but I thought I did a great job. Mind you, looking back, I hadn't lifted a single weight in my life. I'm not the athlete that I am today at this point, but I thought that I was going to get signed and that it was going to happen to me now and then it didn't, I didn't get signed. There were so many times I was called to go do a match and drive 8 or 9 hours from North Carolina to Orlando, Florida just to go do the NXT extra spots and then nothing, which would break my heart every time, but I was just very young then."
Asked if she had any regrets due to failing to get into the WWE, Blanchard responded she had none.
"I think where I am now I am grateful that things didn't happen for me that quickly because I don't think I would be the woman I am today, nor the athlete that I am today if I had gone and got signed right away," she said. "I am really glad that I didn't because I have been able to go down and make history in my own way and have the freedom to make history in ways that matter to me, like, me and Barbi Hayden were able to go to China and have the first ever women's match to be televised on TV in China in history.
"We have had the opportunity to go down to China and Mexico and Japan and wrestle some of the best people in the world, which I think has helped me. I learned a lot from these people. My dad always says that if I want to be great, I have to wrestle people that are great and be around people and travel around people that are great and have only a select few to be able to pour into your mind and you listen."
While she wrestles on the indies now, Blanchard did, however, get the opportunity to work with WWE and The Rock-- she stunt-doubled for Paige in Paige's autobiographical film 'Wrestling with My Family', produced by The Rock.
She filmed her parts after a WWE show at the Staples Center in front of a live audience.
"The Rock got on the mic and said that we are going to bring Tessa Blanchard and Thea Trinidad out, and I'm like, this is so cool," she said. "We were there until 3 in the morning. After we filmed the match, they left and then we did the close-ups and the basic shots. That whole experience was really neat. The Rock trained with us, went to the studio, got into the ring and rolled around with us. He is such a down to earth guy who really cares about details. He was so invested in each one of us, which was really neat."
Blanchard says the experience, considering her past dealings with WWE and their tryouts, was an amusing surprise.
The company reached out to Blanchard, saying they were sending her a plane ticket and they'd tell her more when she got there.
"I was like, Okay, I am there. They told me to pack for 3 days or 3 weeks but didn't tell me nothing. I get there; a car picks me up and I go to my hotel and they tell me an address to be there and at what time. I go there, it is a studio and there is, like, a WWE ring set up."
In the ring, Blanchard's life came full-circle-- she was in a WWE ring, 4 girls total.
"Dave Taylor is there, Thea Trinidad was already there, and it was me and two other girls. They had asked us to roll around in the ring. At that point, they told us what it was for. We rolled around and asked us a few little moves, if we knew how to take the moves and whether we were comfortable. Then, in about three hours, they told me to stay and told the other two to go. They set me up with a person to find a place where I was going to stay and I ended up staying there much longer than three weeks but it was cool.
"We were in the studio every day and working on this one match that we were going to have at the Staples Center, but then it turned into me having to learn 8 matches because they weren't originally going to use me in the UK, they were going to use someone else in the UK. But after the Staples Center, they were like, hey, we need you to fly to the UK, so I stayed there for a few months and I did everything else there. It was a long process, but it was really cool. They dyed my hair black, I just looked like an average girl, but it was so random.
"Right after filming Thea Trinidad got signed to WWE, and I thought something was going to happen for me then as well, but then it didn't, actually, everything worked out the way it was supposed to."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.